In the 90s, Larry David helped redefine the sitcom from behind the scenes when he co-created Seinfeld. In the new millennium, he did it again, this time much more visibly, playing a fictionalised version of himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. At the height of Seinfeld’s success, he thought he’d give movies a go by writing and directing the immediately forgotten Sour Grapes. Then news came after Curb’s eighth season that there were no immediate plans for a ninth, because David was once again off to have a crack at the movies. And it looks like the result has been pretty similar to his first go round. And that’s a shame, because like Sour Grapes, his latest effort, Clear History, deserves more attention than it seems to have received.
Ten years ago, David’s character, Nathan, was working with a fledgling electric car manufacturer, run by John Hamm’s Will Haney. After a miniscule difference of opinion gets blown way out of prepetition (this is a Larry David story, after all), he cashes in his shares and leaves the company. Almost immediately, the electric car he’s been helping develop, the ‘Harold’, becomes a huge success and Nathan has literally lost a billion dollars by walking away when he did.
A decade later, he has escaped the humiliation of his billion dollar mistake by moving to the island of Marha’s Vineyard and going by the name Rolly. He’s built a modest but happy life that is turned upside down when the now multi billionaire Will Haney moves to the island to start building his dream mansion. Again, because this is a Larry David story, easily fixed misunderstandings run rampant, totally unnecessary lies, cover ups and deceptions go down, people act in ways no one ever would in real life in a million years, and almost all of it is pretty hilarious.
For a movie you’ve probably never heard of, Larry David was able to pull together an amazing cast. Besides Jon Hamm, there’s Danny McBride, Amy Ryan, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes, Phillip Baker Hall and an almost unrecognisable Michael Keaton, who absolutely steals every single scene he’s in.
Going back to the Seinfeld days, and only amplified on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David loves coincidence. The amount of tiny little, coincidental meetings, overheard comments, character quirks and contrivances that need to occur within your average Larry David story should make it impossible to suspend any disbelief. But somehow, in the hands of Larry David, they work.
There’s an odd side story about Rolly’s ex girlfriend and the band Chicago that never really leads anywhere or has anything to do with the main story, but it’s funny enough to more than justify its existence. Plus, his ex is played by Amy Ryan who is always amazing, so if nothing else, she makes that subplot worth it.
Basically Clear History is an extended episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, only Larry has a different name and set of friends. And if I can’t have ten episodes of Curb every year, something like Clear History is a pretty good substitute.